When Meghan Markle stepped out for her first royal appearance after tying the knot with Prince Harry in May 2018, it is fair to say that a fair number of the eyes in the world were on her. After all, an estimated 1.9 billion of the global population had watched the former Suits star marry into British royalty and take on the role of Duchess of Sussex just days before. Unsurprisingly, then, the 36-year-old American’s choice of outfit for the post-wedding occasion made the internet sit up and pay attention. But, unfortunately, not all of the reactions were positive.
For many observers, Meghan has brought a breath of fresh air to the British royal family. Pretty much since she made her budding relationship with Prince Harry public in 2017, the former actress has appeared to tear up the rulebook. This is potentially in an attempt to bring her old-fashioned in-laws firmly into the 21st century.
For example, when Meghan opened up about her romance with Harry in the glossy pages of Vanity Fair in September 2017, her public declaration of love marked a distinct break from tradition. In her revealing interview, the future royal spoke about having met her prince in July the year before. She gushed, “We’re two people who are really happy and in love.”
Then in November 2017 – just two months after that magazine piece was published – Meghan and Harry announced their engagement. And, from this point on, the actress began her transformation into a fully fledged royal. However, it became soon became clear that Meghan would not necessarily be following the traditional rules.
In fact, in the handful of Meghan’s official appearances between her engagement and the wedding itself, the bride-to-be seemingly chose to flout staid royal protocol. The actress’ carefree attitude to PDA – or public displays of affection – with her fiancé immediately set disapproving tongues wagging. And the mutterings only increased later on in the year. Why? Well, in December 2017 Meghan became the first unmarried partner of a family member to join the royals for their private Christmas celebrations.
As a result, when the royal wedding rolled around five months later, Meghan-watchers knew to expect some twists in the proceedings. The happy couple wed on May 19, 2018, and they put their own stamp on the big day. For example, they opted for a lemon and elderflower cake rather than the traditional fruit version. They also invited over 2,000 representatives of the ordinary public to share their joy. So thousands of lucky visitors gained access to the grounds of the wedding venue at Windsor Castle.
In addition, in a major break with tradition, Meghan also showed her independent side in the absence of her indisposed father by walking herself part-way down the aisle. Furthermore, at the wedding reception, the former actress made her own speech. Her oratory was heard alongside more conventional contributions from her groom and the best man, Prince William.
With all this in mind, as Meghan embarked on her new life as a British royal, many of her fans would have been forgiven for thinking that she would continue to carve out her own path. So when she turned up to her first official engagement as a married woman, three days after her wedding, the new Duchess of Sussex’s choice of outfit may have shocked some of her followers.
The event in question was a 70th birthday celebration in London for Meghan’s father-in-law, Prince Charles. For the special occasion, Meghan wore a pale pink dress from one of Kate Middleton’s go-to fashion brands, Goat. The silk and chiffon gown extended respectably to the duchess’ knees but nonetheless showed a slight hint of flesh through its sheer sleeves and décolletage.
Tradition dictates that British royal women should don hats for all official functions. Consequently, Meghan topped off her look that day with a headpiece. And the complementary-colored number was from London-based milliner to the rich and famous Philip Treacy. However, it was neither the newlywed’s dress nor her choice of headwear that really got people talking.
Instead, people got their tights in a twist over the young royal’s hosiery. Following in the footsteps of the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan had put on a pair of pantyhose. It remains royal etiquette for women of the U.K. court to cover their legs at official events. Nevertheless, many of Meghan’s fans on social media were not happy with her choice of hose.
Subsequently, many Twitter commenters suggested that by adopting the pantyhose, Meghan had finally decided to conform to the royal family’s expectations of how she should look and act. One tweeted, “I thought it was bad enough Meghan Markle had to get baptized, but now it appears she has been told to start wearing the nude tights. The humanity.”
Other Twitter users expressed their concern that the duchess’ choice of pantyhose looked too pale for her actual flesh tone. A bemused fan took to the social media site and wrote, “Meghan looks absolutely stunning. But if she has to wear skin-colored tights, then why can’t her stylist actually find the right skin-color tights for her? Those tights are pale for her.”
The debate heated up further when it was pointed out that hose of any kind are somewhat unsuited to a warm spring day. Many also reminded the internet that Meghan had chosen to go bare-legged in the November chill outside Kensington Palace for her engagement photo call seven months before. And this is all the more pertinent in light of royal commentator Victoria Arbiter’s remarks. At around that time, she told website Insider that the wearing of pantyhose was “really the only hard, steadfast rule in terms of what the Queen requires.”
Perhaps, then, the duchess had donned pantyhose for Prince Charles’ celebration out of respect for her husband’s grandmother – the British monarch. Or maybe Meghan had just developed a new-found appreciation for hose independently. Regardless of the reason, though, it soon appeared that the regal leg wear was here to stay.
In the wake of Charles’ birthday party, Meghan has seemingly opted to wear pantyhose, albeit in a slightly darker color, for all her public engagements. Each time the duchess has subsequently stepped out officially – including U.K. appearances at Ascot for a horse-racing meet, the Mersey Gateway Bridge for its opening, and at Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards – she has rolled up with her legs covered.
Nevertheless, while it appears Meghan may have backed down in the bare-legs battle, that does not mean she has surrendered in her war on the royal fashion rulebook. Indeed, when the duchess attended her first Trooping the Colour event in London in early June 2018, she once again caused a stir with traditionalists thanks to her outfit choice.
However, this time it would not be Meghan’s uncovered legs that kicked off the controversy, but her immodestly exposed neckline. At the Trooping the Colour pageant, which marked the Queen’s 92nd birthday, Meghan said yes to an off-the-shoulder number. Yet the decision to reveal this part of the body is apparently – it turned out – a big no-no for royal women.
In fact, it is the convention for female royals to shy away from revealing styles – especially at formal occasions such as Trooping the Colour. For instance, Meghan’s sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, has been attending the summer event annually since 2011. Kate, though, has never worn a sleeve that ended above her elbow.
So it appears that Meghan’s initial relationship with British royal fashion protocol has been less than straightforward, due to her habit of bending the rules a bit. When it comes to the regal style rulebook, the new royal has thus far abided by some edicts but ripped up others. Nevertheless, it seems that the freshly dubbed Duchess of Sussex has always striven to look nothing short of sensational in the process.